Address: London WC2 H

600m from Charing Cross

100m from Leicester Square

Address: London WC2 H

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Leicester Square is at the heart of London’s West End and is a name synonymous with entertainment. It’s a popular tourist attraction with a host of shops, bars, restaurants and nightclubs and is also London’s cinemaland. The square also boasts a central park area.

Whilst it’s been a lively place for the past two centuries, the early years were a lot different. In 1635 Robert Sidney, Earl of Leicester built a mansion and named it Leicester House. It was north of the north side of today’s Square and backed onto where Lisle Street is today. Its courtyard came down to the north edge of today’s Square which was then known as Leicester Field and was land often used by people to dry clothes, with cattle fields nearby.

The Earl fenced the area off, but after petitions to the king, it became a public area again. By the 1690’s the surrounding area had been built upon and had roads and Leicester Field became a notorious duelling ground. A famous duel occurred in 1699 between Captain French and Captain Coote and Thackeray wrote about a fictional duel between two lords. Leicester House had royal connections. Queen Elizabeth I lived there when a princess as did the Prince of Wales between 1717 and 1760. It passed on to Sir Ashton Lever and he opened a natural history museum, but the house was pulled down in 1806.

The square then took on a commercial, artistic and entertainment persona, much in the way of nearby Soho and Covent Garden and over the years a number of famous people lived there. They included Joshua Reynolds, William Hogarth, Isaac Newton and surgeon John Hunter. Each are remembered today with sculptures in each corner of the central park.

Today the square is buzzing with life with street entertainers, plenty to do and see and is a destination for many tourists. Certainly one of the most famous London landmarks, Leicester Square is known worldwide.

Click on the pics below for an enlarged view and use the arrow towards the right edge of each pic to go on to the next.